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THE CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION Paper: The Chronicle of Higher Education Section: Information Technology Date: 7/7/2006 URL: http://chronicle.com/temp/email2.php?id=CPh5PkTzgYmWnCzmYnmZxwZFJffXZxJt Be All You Can Be Colleges that market to military students discover they present new challenges July 7, 2006 online institution based in West Virginia, and University of Registering for classes is often a hassle. But try doing it Maryland University College, the continuing-education while fighting a war.Bridget I. Ruiz did. Working at a branch of the state university, were among the early research hospital in Egypt as a petty officer in the U.S. pursuers of military students. But in the past few years, the Navy last year, she enrolled in an online degree program field of providers has become far more crowded. in clinical laboratory sciences from the University of Cincinnati. But just as she started registering, she was Although colleges see military students as a market ripe shipped out to Iraq to conduct research on pathogens that for expansion, some observers believe that expansion were affecting troops and civilians. may be limited. in the long run because the armed forces' growth will most likely be capped by Congress. But in the The desert base in Iraq had scant Internet availability. Ms. meantime, the institutions with high military-student Ruiz had to wait in long lines for her turn to use a enrollments are enjoying the ride. computer, and even then the connection speed was the equivalent of dial-up. She was limited to 20 minutes per Tom Macon, chief executive officer of Grantham University, session, which she divided between registering for classes an online institution based in Missouri, says military and writing e-mail messages to loved ones. students respond quickly when they find out that an institution has a flexible online program. But Ms. Ruiz never let anyone at the university know that her military duties were complicating her education. "They have a lot of unique needs," Mr. Macon says. "Because I was so new to the program, I didn't want to "Sometimes they have bandwidth, sometimes they don't. appear to be a problem," she says. "I didn't want any Sometimes they have a place to study, sometimes they favoritism because I was in the service.” don't. And if they're going on a mission that's in the national-security interest, sometimes they can't say why." Petty Officer Ruiz's persistence in seeking out an education helps to explain why military personnel have 'The Priority Is the Mission' become a favorite market for colleges, and why providing Colleges used to serving civilians say that working with education to members of the armed forces presents military students can require some adjustments. As special challenges. More and more colleges are courting students fall in and out of contact, professors and military students to help fill their online enrollments, as the administrators must remain flexible and allow them time to military increasingly touts its educational benefits, complete their work. including paying full tuition, and works closely with Petty Officer Ruiz was in Iraq for six weeks before being colleges to help service personnel complete their sent back to Egypt, where she was set to begin her education. University of Cincinnati online courses as she continued Students in the military often find online programs to be the her hospital work. only way they can continue their education while serving Then she was suddenly shipped to Qatar. their country. Even troops who aren't in combat in Iraq or "I basically had to start school while I was in Qatar without Afghanistan may be sent overseas or from base to base a textbook," she says. Although she was in Qatar, her throughout their careers, making it difficult for them to take textbook was sent to Egypt. Still, she never told her traditional courses. Instead of worrying about transferring instructor about her predicament and improvised through credits, they can study anywhere they can get Internet the beginning of the course, using a similar textbook she access. found in a library and scanning the Internet for information. Institutions such as American Military University, a for-profit Grantham University is accredited by the Accrediting Commission of the Distance Education and Training Council (DETC). For more information, visit www.grantham.edu or call 1-800-955-2527. Her textbook finally caught up to her two weeks later, but the count is finished in a few complications didn't end. She was working a demanding job weeks. building mobile biomedical labs and had little time for "We've recognized that they're really motivated, mature studying. students," Ms. Newman says. "It was real difficult to slip away," Ms. Ruiz says. "The priority Some colleges find themselves attracting military students is the mission there." without even trying. The University of Cincinnati has several And there was a 10-hour time difference between her and students who are in the military, including Petty Officer Ruiz, her classmates. While much of the work could be done when even though the university has not pursued them she made the time to do it, she was required to participate in aggressively. live chats once a week. But Cincinnati is about to change its approach. Linda J. "I just stayed up as late as I could at night to do my Graeter, director of the university's clinical laboratory-science homework," Ms. Ruiz says. "Sometimes I had to get up at 3 program, says the university is working with military liaisons or 4 in the morning to do the chats.” to determine how to entice more students who are in the military. Ms. Ruiz recently returned to the United States and is now working at a base in Fort Worth, Tex., while completing her "We're looking to put something together to meet their studies. Overall, she says her experience with online learning needs," Ms. Graeter says. was good. Partnership In Flux Choosing For-Profit Colleges More colleges might soon be serving military students For-profit colleges have often found it easier than nonprofit through eArmyU, the most significant new partnership ones to make the adjustment to educating those serving in between the armed forces and higher education. The the armed forces. At Touro University International, an online program, which celebrates its fifth anniversary this summer, institution based in California, about 4,000 of its 6,500 allows soldiers to use tuition assistance money to take online students serve in the military. And more than half of the courses through 28 colleges. It has proved popular among nearly 11,000 students at Grantham University are in the soldiers, allowing them to select courses from a wide variety armed forces. of colleges and programs, instead of shopping around for different institutions. Shenequa L. Johnson, a senior airman in the Air Force, is stationed in Turkey as a health-services manager at the base Although eArmyU is controlled by the Army, it is managed by hospital. She recently enrolled at Grantham and is taking International Business Machines. But the contract with IBM courses in criminal justice, English, business management, recently expired, so eArmyU is putting the contract out to bid and computerinformation systems as part of the university's for a new manager. The results are not expected for several general-studies program. She switched to Grantham from months. another university because Grantham did not have any L. Dian Stoskopf, director of education for the Department of requirements for students to meet online at specific times, the Army, says that because eArmyU is going through a rebid making it easier to complete the courses on her own process she cannot comment about any potential changes in schedule. the program. "It looked like it had a good program that was easy to figure A. Frank Mayadas, director of the Alfred P. Sloan out, and it seemed geared toward military students Foundation's grant program for online education, is chairman specifically," Ms. Johnson says. "Being here, it's hard to get of an eArmyU advisory group called the Council on Academic faxes and stuff out. But I was able to e-mail all my Management. He says he hopes that the next contractor will information." help the program add many more institutions. The sticking She says registering for classes and keeping up with her point, he says, is getting the institutions to recognize one studies have gone pretty smoothly — for the most part: "I another's courses in transferring credits. "It would be good for haven't gotten one of my books because there was a bomb the Army to have a larger number of schools than it has right at the Istanbul airport.” now," Mr. Mayadas says. "This is a new world. It's going to grow.” Following the success of for-profit institutions, more nonprofit colleges are now seeking out military students for their online For some institutions, providing distance education to military programs. Pennsylvania State University's World Campus, students was a natural extension of what they were doing an online division of the university system, has only been already. activelycourting military students for the past two years, says Old Dominion University is located next to the Naval Station Ginny Newman, assistant director for military education at Norfolk, the largest Navy base in the world, so the institution Penn State. is used to serving sailors. As the university has ventured into The growth has been steep, she says. During the 2004-5 distance education, officials have made sure the sailors academic year, 132 military students enrolled in online could take their courses along on submarines and aircraft courses at the university. That number grew to at least 245 carriers. this past academic year, and Ms. Newman says she expects To meet the needs of students with limited Internet access, that number to be even bigger when the official enrollment Old Dominion continues to teach many of its courses through Grantham University is accredited by the Accrediting Commission of the Distance Education and Training Council (DETC). For more information, visit www.grantham.edu or call 1-800-955-2527. satellite feeds and CD-ROM's that provide lectures, video move again, though she is not sure where yet, to complete clips, and classroom demonstrations, as it has done since her clinical rotation for her degree at the University of before online courses were popular, says David L. Chase, Cincinnati. To do that, she plans to take leave from the Navy director of military distance learning at the university. for about a month — time usually reserved for vacation. Navy ships are equipped to retrieve the satellite signal for the The day she finally leaves the military, she says, she will be sailors taking the courses. And when test time rolls around, in a much better position to get the sort of job she wants the exams are already stored on the ships' computers so working in a research hospital. "It's worked out well, really they can be administered by the students' commanding better than I expected," Ms. Ruiz says. "Thank God for the officer. Internet." Although those technologies seem to work well for many students, some are demanding online courses so they can About Grantham University: complete the work on their own time — a term education Established in 1951, Grantham University is a private institution that officials call asynchronous education. Old Dominion is specializes in educating the working adult student. Its mission is to working to meet that demand, Mr. Chase says. 'level the playing field' by making a high quality college education available to adult learners based on the combined academic and "We do not have a large menu of asynchronous programs at economic principles of Accessibility, Afford ability and Academic the moment, but we're pedaling furiously to make more and Accountability. Grantham University offers military scholarships for more of that available," Mr. Chase says. active duty, reserve, guard, veterans and military family members, The University of Phoenix Online has a separate division that as well as scholarships for law enforcement professionals. handles military students. Mike Bibbee, the Phoenix vice Grantham's courses are online and self-paced, allowing students to president who oversees that division, says all its enrollment study at home, at work, on Temporary Duty (TDY) or from almost counselors are former members of the military, so they can anywhere in the world. Grantham University is accredited by the relate to the students as well as understand all the Accrediting Commission of the Distance Education and Training confounding military jargon. Council (DETC). For more information, visit www.grantham.edu or call 1-800-955-2527. "They understand how difficult it is to get your education PRI-2007-125 ver: thechronicle7706 while you're in the service," Mr. Bibbee says. "And best of all, they speak the language." The Military Division enrolls about 16,500 students of 99,500 total students at Phoenix Online. Many of the military students are younger than the average Phoenix enrollees, who are often in their 30s. So the university spends more time working with the students to help them adapt to online education, which can be more difficult than classroom-based education because the courses often involve more reading and interaction among students through chats and discussion boards. Few Private Colleges Not all institutions with distance-education programs are marketing to military students. Many large private universities are too expensive for a majority of members of the military. And even with so many potential military students, growth will be limited over the years, says Wallace E. Boston Jr., president of the American Public University System, which oversees American Military University. After all, he says, the number of military personnel is kept pretty constant by the U.S. government. “It doesn't grow much, even during times of war," Mr. Boston says. "That number is pretty tightly controlled by Congress.” For colleges that are seeking more military students, the best marketing tool seems to be satisfied customers. Yoram Neumann, chief executive and provost of Touro University International, says that most new students who are in the military usually find out about the university more through word of mouth than through the advertisements it places in Army Times and Stars & Stripes. Petty Officer Ruiz, now that she is back in the United States, seems like a satisfied customer. She expects to have to Grantham University is accredited by the Accrediting Commission of the Distance Education and Training Council (DETC). For more information, visit www.grantham.edu or call 1-800-955-2527.
"THE CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION"